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The most expensive animated feature ever produced in Japan, "Akira" centers around Tetsuo, a fifteen year old bike punk who accidentally becomes involved in a dangerous experiment. After being destroyed by an unknown force in 1989, the city of Neo-Tokyo rises from the ashes of a third world war (triggered by confusion after the cities destruction) to face the threat of Akira, a force of almost unimaginable power which was somehow responsible for originally decimating the city. Now there is a project that is about to unleash that same force in Tetsuo.

The detail, color, and quality of this film is astounding, showing the potential for animation to provide effects on a scale that would be impossible in a conventional film. Neo-Tokyo is a fully-realized city, and we come to discover its power and politics, as well as witness the decay of a metropolis that is so massive that, only thirty years after being rebuilt, its social structure has already begun to collapse. Akira is true to the vision of cyberpunk, and shows us a future that is violent and without hope, yet at the same time is fascinating and powerful.

The film, while true to the story of the manga that spawned it, does not give away any hints as to how the much larger comic story will end. Only mildly successful in Japan, and criticized for being "too western" in its vision, Akira has proved to be very popular in the art film circuit here in the US.

Otomo describes this story as one of "Vitality in the face of anarchy". Another revolution in this film was the fact that the actors voices were recorded first, then the animated characters were matched to the movement of their mouths. Although Disney uses this method for its feature films, it was unheard of in Japan until Akira. Unfortunately this precision is lost in the dubbed version of the film.

(A. Mayer)



Written and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
English language edition Produced by:
Streamline Pictures Video
PO Box 69141B
West Hollywood, CA 90069


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Gareth Branwyn -

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